How to Start Your Own Independent Practice by the New Year

October 2, 2017

[sergey nivens]
[sergey nivens]

It’s October, fall is in full swing, and your management team is probably taking a closer look at its 2018 budget. But you may have different plans. Maybe you’re thinking about starting your own independent practice.

Your big question might be: “Can I have it ready by the new year?” The answer depends on how much you’ve prepared so far, and what you can accomplish in the next few months. To help guide you, here is a general 90-day plan.

Keep working.

Just as it’s never a good idea to quit a job before landing your next one, it’s also ill-advised to leave your current position before you absolutely must. Use this time to lay the groundwork for your new, independent practice, while continuing to generate income from your existing job.

Decide your hours.

There is a lot to consider here, like how much money you need to live, how much you can reasonably expect to earn in the first year on your own, and whether you can make a go of your new business full time. You may find that part time works better, at least at first. If you choose to go part time, just make sure that your plans do not conflict with those of your current employer.

Write a business plan.

If you haven’t started working on a business plan yet, now is the time to do it. Your plan should include everything from how much money you’ll need to invest in creating and sustaining your own operating infrastructure to what kinds of clients you will serve, and how and when you will get them. There are many good books on how to write a business plan.

Have cash reserves at the ready.

Most businesses don’t generate healthy profits on day one. Even if you already have clients lined up, make sure that you have enough cash on hand to carry you through the down cycles, at least enough to cover 6–12 months.

Start lining up clients.

Have you talked to anyone yet about being one of your first clients? If not, it’s time. Keep in mind that they’re planning their budgets for the new year, too. Make it easier for prospective clients by letting them know you will be available in 2018.

Establish operating systems.

Invest in solid legal counsel for all major decisions, such as the form your business will take (sole proprietorship, LLC, incorporated, etc.) and the kinds of contracts you will use. File papers with your state to form the business. Open a business bank account. Decide on official phone numbers, email addresses, website addresses and other mechanisms for day-to-day operations. Get professional guidance from an accountant on your systems for accounting and tax reporting.

Create your digital storefront.

Start working on your website design. To look legitimate on day one, make sure your “digital storefront” looks the way it should to prospective clients.

Once you have made progress on these items, you can better enjoy that trip to the office-furnishings store to begin decorating your workspace. The key to starting your own practice is not to be overwhelmed by what may seem like an enormous challenge, but to break it down, piece by manageable piece.

Tim O'Brien, APR

Tim O’Brien, APR, owns O’Brien Communications, an independent corporate communications practice in Pittsburgh, and hosts the “Shaping Opinion” podcast. Email: Twitter: @OBrienPR.


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